The Importance of Healthy Relationships
Consider human relationships between parent and child or boss and employee. While each relationship varies infinitely in the unique threads that hold it together successfully, all relationships must include trust and respect. Relationships between dog and owner are no different.
Dogs have an innate ability to sense strength and weakness. The survival of wild animals depends on this ability and it has remained in the dog's instinctual arsenal of skills. They will not trust a weak person and they will not respect inconsistent, illogical leaders. You cannot fool a dog, they sense your true character immediately and adapt appropriately for their own well being. Though they will not judge you for cheating on taxes, lying to your significant other, making mistakes at the office or failing an exam, they will absolutely judge your interactions with them as their pack leader. And if you don't hold up, they will not trust nor respect you.
Different breeds require different levels of respect; the more dominant the dog, the more authority you need in order to handle him well. All dogs, however, need a certain degree of trust and respect or you can expect to fight - and lose - a lifelong battle wherein your dog will, at minimum, ignore your commands and, at maximum, destroy property and injure other living beings with no regard for your instructions.
Fortunately, it is very easy to earn trust and respect from your dog once you understand how to communicate rules and boundaries and have the confidence to be consistent and firm when reinforcing these rules and boundaries.
Strength and Weaknesses as Seen by your Dog
Weak pack leaders exhibit some or all of the following:
- Allowing your dog on the furniture...sometimes
- Laughing at the puppy when he chews on your shoe then scolding the puppy for the exact same behavior when he chews on the shoes you really like
- Hugging and praising your dog when he jumps on you at the door on some days, scolding your dog when he jumps on you with muddy paws on other days (he has no clue that he's getting mud on your clothes, no concept of, "oh, my feet are dirty and you are wearing white pants so I won't jump")
- Human anger, frustration and even rage have no place in dog ownership so when you are too frustrated to deal with the situation, take a 10 second time-out to calm down
- Yelling the same command over and over, shaking, smacking, or shoving his nose in something and screaming are all a complete waste of time and very well may backfire in aggressive disaster
- Ignoring basic needs - food, potty, shelter, exercise and discipline will permanently scar your relationship with your dog over time
- If you cannot commit to properly caring for a dog, don't get a puppy
Strong pack leaders exhibit most or all of the following:
Confidence and Authority
- Leaders walk through the door, doorways and up or down stairs first
- Firm commands said once or twice at the same volume. "no, noooo, No, I mean it!, NO, BAD DOG! NOOO!" - is ridiculous and completely ineffective
- Say it like you mean it the first time. Say it like you expect the dog to listen, the first time.
- Leaders eat first
No Free Lunch
- Make your dog perform a trick or follow an obedience command before giving him food, letting him outside, taking him for a walk, throwing a ball, etc. Always make him earn his rewards so he never forgets who is in control.
When building and maintaining relationships, it also helps to understand the way dog's communicate with you and with each other. Learn more about dog language here.
Ten Actions to Take
Earn Respect and Establish or Reinforce Authority
- Walk through the door, doorways and up or down stairs first
- Eat first
- No free lunch - make your dog follow a command prior to any and every reward
- Say a command firmly and expect them to respond as requested
- Provide food, water, exercise and shelter on a regular basis in a routine fashion
- Be consistent
- Be patient while training, firm post training
- Reward positive behavior
- Set up the environment for success
- Show affection when the earns it
As stated earllier, different breeds require different levels of trust and respect. The more dominant the dog, the stronger the leader must be.